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It was that time of year again. The time to pledge, to pledge to the master laird, the landowner and the castle’s protector- Finn McIntosh. He, too, was one of the clan of McIntosh but his family was of McLure. Year after year had passed since his declared manhood at age 10, which was also the year of his first pledge. It was the year his father had perished. He’d come to castle McIntosh for protection and to learn. To learn the art of making a living, to also learn the art of making war. He’d pledged his fealty that year along with 3 others. His cousins. All McIntosh. All strong. All of one family, one people.

Out of loyalty he’d pledged. Out of devotion he’d taken the oath. Year after year he’d grown, herded the cattle, milked the cows, brushed the hoses, and fought. They’d trained in fighting everyday. Until each man, young and old felt their muscles tired enough to fall off the bone. He’d trained for battles yet to come… and then they pledged. He never understood why though. Why the need to pledge each year? He’d devoted himself body, mind, and heart to his clan, his kinfolk, his uncle the kind hearted master laird. He, Adair McLure, never considered going back on his pledge.

But this year, his 21st year, was different. In the span of less than one year he’d grown to hate. He’d grown to despise the name McIntosh. He despised the blood in his own veins and it ran cold. Ice cold. He’d grown dark inside himself, too dark to even look his master in the eye. Now he knew. He knew that one year made all the difference. Hell, just one day could change everything. A singular had done that for him. It was the day his father returned from the dead.

~

It had been the first day of the Hunt on the first of october. For one month the McIntosh clan hunted on their vast lands. 47 men from all across the country. Young and old. They spent each day from sunup to sundown out in the forest. The man with the largest prize, the trickiest kill would win the gold. A lump sum from the laird, but more importantly was the bragging rights. A year’s worth of bragging rights. Adair had arrived home to the annex cottage he singly inhabited on the outskirts of the castle. He arrived near twilight, covered in dirt, in blood, in grass. He was still smiling over his cousin’s joke as a momentary shadow passed the reflection of his mirror. He looked back but saw nothing.

“Is anyone there?” He called out the open window that reflected the day’s last light. He was met by no answer, so he grabbed his small axe as he headed toward the window. “I saw you. I know someone is there.” He called out fully expecting to see his McIntosh cousins come out laughing at his expense. For a moment nothing moved and then he heard it, a deep, radiating, yet familiar voice called out to him.

“You’ve so grown up, Adair, my son.” A tall strapping figure with a tangled beard came into full view of the open window. It was warm and night was setting in, the crickets chirping softly, but all feeling had gone out from Adair’s body.

“What sorcery is this? Who are you demon spirit?” He spat out barely understanding what his eyes were seeing. “My father has been dead some two decades.”

“Or perhaps that’s what the laird, my brother-in-law, wanted you to think.”

Adair tried to convince himself this was a moment of hallucination, a mere reflection after an exhausting day of Hunts, but there was no way to deceive what was truly before his eyes.

His father continued, “After all, I was presumed dead that very same day you were celebrated a man, or have you forgotten me already?”

It was those last 5 words that did the trick. After every long excursion his father had made when he was young, he always returned home and asked ‘have you forgotten me already?’. To which the young Adair would shout ‘No, what have you brought me da?” It was as if something inside his head rattled itself into place and he moved forward. “D…Da !” Adair breathed out. He ran towards the window and grabbed his father around the neck, the wall and sill between them.

That had been some four months passed. Four months he had been brooding, keeping in the anger, the murderous rage that was birthed the day he saw his father’s face in the window before his cottage. Now he had but 1 month to go until he had to make his pledge again. The hustle and bustle of the event no longer held sway over him. He no longer looked forward to it when all the clansmen came and pledged.

Adair knew either he had to flee the castle or make his pledge. Which he would choose only God Almighty knew. Everything had shattered within him that day. He could not understand how a brother could be out for the blood of his own kin, the husband of his sister. He could not understand how such malice and evil could be within a man to take in a boy only out of greed, to try and steal his land. If the laird thought McLure lands would ever be held by McIntosh then he was mistaken. Adair would be dead before that, dead well before.

And so the month passed into oblivion and Adiar found himself before the laird’s seat in line to pledge. Yes. He would pledge. He would pledge with as much venom and malice as was given him when his father had been taken from him unnecessarily. In time, though he reveled in thoughts to level the laird’s head with his sword.

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A Time To Pledge

40 Years Wandering…


He left the house at half past 6 in the morning. Today was the day. The day of his freedom. He knew it would come one day. 40 years he’d carried it on his back. Fear. He’d carried it like a hero his sidekick, never too far behind. All these 40 years he’d paid his price for that one day, that one choice that he made. 40 years of fear. 40 years of hiding. 40 years running. He’d paid his demons well. So had they, his family. They paid for his sins too. Out of the four children he had, only one knew, the eldest, and even she didn’t fully comprehend.

His wife knew. Of course, she knew. There was no way he could hide the fact from her. She knew he was a fugitive when she married him. But as they say, you can’t help who you fall in love with. Fate had chosen the two of them to bear his cross together. She knew, rest her soul, that the life they built could be over at any time. They could come like smoke in the night and take his life. He could be here today and gone tomorrow and she, alone in the world, would have to carry on without him.

On more than one occasion they’d fled into the dark recesses of gathering twilight with just the cloths on their backs. To new homes, new friends, new lives they went. But she was gone now. Nora. His Nora. His rock, his anchor, his partner in crime. Heart attack. It was probably one he’d given her. One that came from carrying this fear 40 years. That was when it had started. The yearning. The yearning for freedom, the yearning for rest, the respite of not having to wake up in the night over every sound he heard. No longer looking over your shoulder, even on the best and most precious of days. His relief. He started yearning its taste.

Yet, he’d waited, fully expecting to see himself have a change of heart, but that yearning had not left. Now. Now was the time he’d decided. All of the chicks had grown and flown his coop. They’d grown wings and took off. Six months ago his youngest son had married. He, himself, had just turned 60 two months before. That was when it happened. That’s when he realized he’d had enough. Like Israel wondering the desert for 40 years, his 40 years of desert wandering had been enough.

A week ago he’d filed his latest will and testament. Left a note for his children and mailed one to his eldest. He locked the house that crisp morning, the morning of October 31st and headed to the airport. He booked a plane to Canada, Toronto. In three hours time he’d be at the door of the Caraway family. They were a highly connected and dangerous mob family. Walking onto their doorstep would mean his life would be forfeited, yet he welcomed it. It would be sweet relief he was craving, a relief to know he was going to face his music, join the waltz of violence the Caraways always kept, and satisfy the debt against him.

It was a debt he’d gathered at 20 years old after having accidently informed an undercover police officer of the Caraways involvement in certain crimes. Though, it was a stupid and innocent mistake that only a carefree 20 years old would make. At the very least this whole situation had made him honest. He never again sought out the back alley transactions he was involved with before. Still, his was not a mistake the Caraways forgave. In fact, they were known not to forgive anyone at all. Ever.

In three hours and a half, he landed on Canadian soil. By now, no doubt they’d gotten news he was on this flight, but no fear came. He was beyond fear. He headed for customs. Soon enough he pushed through the crowd and made it outside. He breathed in the cold familiar scents of this city.

He hailed a cab from across the way but a black Lincoln with black windows pulled up in front of him at the curb. The elder Mr. Caraway rolled down the window.

“Jimmy boy, its been a while.” He said wrapped in a shrivel of mystery.

“It has but I’ve come to make it right. Better late than never.” He replied.

He nodded. “Lets talk Jimmy.” Caraway motioned for Jimmy to sit down with him and Jimmy obliged. The car pulled away from the curb and soon lost its significance among the Toronto traffic. However, one never knows how life will pan out, least of all those willing to die.

Zenith Nation: The Zenith Commune

Zenith: the point on the celestial sphere vertically above a given position or observer; the highest point.

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Zenith, we sparkle, we fly.

We do the man-made impossible.

We are the ones to envy.

We are the Zenith, The Nation above all the others.

We wiz by at light speeds- physically, mentally we go,

racing toward the end, the end of our lives, the end of times.

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All we do, all we have is AI. It is artificial. It is intelligent.

We all strive, we want to Be, to have, to reach-

To reach the very top.

The Zenith is all there is here,

all anyone dreams of, to be the one whose name regales

the pages of The Heights of society.

We are It, the epitome of all the Nations.

We are the very brightest, the ones always looking to out do.

We out do each other, ourselves, and anyone in the way.

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Anyone in the way of our dreams, our gold, will be crushed,

trampled beneath the weight of brains, of advancements

Monthly, weekly, hourly- too fast to keep up with.

We advance our alloys, our wires, all the invisible data

floating above our heads that make Zenith what it is.

We advance at the price of everyone else.

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We are poise, we are frantic, we are filled to the brim

With all that dies, with all that consumes.

That is who we are. The Consumers.

Devourers of life, of people, of goodness, of evil.

We take it all in and swallow it whole.

We drink in light like a supermassive black hole.

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We create and at such a speed that we hurry our own ends.

We the nation of wires, of self-driving cars, of phones and

worlds in hand- we are the end, cancer filling up the sky.

Zenith, the peak of the human race and yet the bottom, the

Intrepid disasters filling up the air. We are poison,

to ourselves, to the world we devour into toxic nothingness.

Posted in Creative writing, Short Story

Gossamer Nation

We came down the mountain and just like that…there they were- the airborne arthropods with gossamer wings, the butterflies- the gossamers as they were called in these parts. They fluttered and whizzed about like tiny leaves blown about by unseen currents of force, flapping their multi-colored wings against the winds.

butterfly-macro-insect-nature-40869As soon as we had crossed the boundary of the Mountain, there they were. Though, there was no physical barrier, no tangible reason for them to not traverse the nations, minus the rule of thumb… magic- there they stayed in the country known to the world as The Gossamer Commonwealth. In reality, no magic held them inside the nation they were named after. They stayed because Gossamer was the one place with absolutely perfect conditions for them to thrive in.

Not many places were left for them to grow in after The Destruction. The wars that almost annihilated the human race took with them many species of beauty. So much was lost after that dark day. The day fire flew from the sky and even the rains became toxic, washing the skin and meat off your bones as if it were a muddied layer of dirt.

Those days are long past now. Though, in some nations the acid rains still come, even now. Yet, when all that was said and done, mankind had never quite fully recovered even after rebuilding a civilization- but how does one recover from that level of destruction? How do you become uncontaminated when everything else around and inside of you is tainted?

That was the toxic rain that started it all, the one inside mankind, beating in their chests like war drums. Still, despite the devastation the delicate gossamers lived. Even when everything else was turning to ash, they heard life calling and followed its bellows.

The-Powers-That-Be knew the gossamers would need a place and called to them- the Papilionidae, to each family, genus, and species they called. So amid the poisoned atmospheres, the Butterflies heard and were drawn in search of a land where they could flourish. By clusters of millions and billions they flew and died. They braved the acid rains, the fire torrents of hell, and flew for life.

Though the carnage was great, the remaining species finally found the promised land and came to rest here: where the grasses run tall, the food plenty; where the sun is bright, and a fixture of cool mornings abide. Not many of their predators made it this far into wild country. Some, but just enough that the butterflies could multiply and their presence never could diminish.

pexels-photo-24887This place, this magical looking land was once called Nadir, like the lowest point of an arc, and the opposite of Zennith in Astronomy- The Nadir Commonwealth. This land was Nadir because it was the exact opposite of what mankind held as beautiful, as the pinnacle of advancement and civilization. It was backward.

As the remaining humans left the poisoned places of earth in search of their own Eden, they found Nadir and settled amid the gossamers. The beauty of it and the vast volume of butterflies that inhabited the place led to many stories among the Nations, legends even. In the stories it was always called Gossamer Commonwealth. Well, in time the name stuck…and the rest is history, as it is said.

Though it’s a beauty, a place of wonder and lushness, do not mistake it for a soft place. It’s a wild place, where only the most fierce can survive, gossamer and human alike. And that is why we’ve come. Gossamer Commonwealth is the vastest nation on the continent but also one of the most uninhabited. So we’ve come to test ourselves. We’ve come to see how the inhabitants of Zennith Nation can get on in the abandoned places of earth where no wires, no lights, no communication happens except the kind that is achieved by hand and foot and mind.

Zennith Nation, the peak of human achievement complete with flying clunks of metal, machines on wheels zooming by at light speeds, phones in hand that do everything for us human beings so we don’t have to lift a finger. Everywhere you turn there are wires galore, wires to make communication, power, and everything in between possible. The Zennith where wires are a way of life and life is, itself, as synthetic as they are.

sunset-summer-2But in Gossamer there are no wires. There are no lights, save the distant evening fires of the neighbors miles off. Here, in the quiet recesses of the wild no man-made noise protruds.

We came, a product of our nation, high tech, in our Rover- the four-wheeled metal Beast that could outrun any beasts of the field. We stopped at the bottom of Lion Mountain and took in the sights. We took in the grandeur of Gossamer and watched mesmerized as the butterflies traversed the open spaces in front of us. One or two, perhaps in clusters of three, they passed every few seconds, and then large sheets of them in multi-colored swaths every few minutes. Every color and kind were there. They lived and flew together.

And so we went. Into the unknown wilds, we went, to find adventure and our courage. As it is said in the old stories, courage is only found in the unknown where the unfamiliar grows. So hand in hand we traveled through dangers and beauties alike until we returned to Zennith and were never the same for we, too, had heard The-Powers-That-Be whisper in the wind and try as we might, we always yearned to hear them again, always drawn to return to that place once more, like the gossamers to open flames.

“She would now and forevermore  be known as Vandara, the Valor of Valerian, the Chosen.”

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It was still dark when Vandara awoke, though dawn was near bloom. She tossed aside her covers and dressed. A deep longing was beginning in her chest, a draw to go into the wood and breath in its natural scents. It was as if she was being called into the wide wood, drawn by a force greater than herself.

Vandara dressed in layers, as the spring mornings were indeed still quite cool. She threw open the cabin door where she was staying and headed into the forest not a hundred feet from the little village.

The world was becoming lighter, less gray, and filled with writhing colors in every shade. She pressed on into the woods, not fearing. There was no danger for her here for she was the Chosen. She just did not yet know it.

The tall Cedarpencil trees made the day murky and mysterious but she continued on, careful not to trip over the monstrous tree roots braided into the earth.

After some time she reached a valley clearing and froze at the tree line. There he was. Vast and magnificent- the king of the wood, the Great White Lion. He sat perched on a large boulder watching the sun arise. His rich mane hung down in vast clumps about his thick muscular neck, white and colorless. He sat relaxed, as if without a care in the world, watching bees and gossamers flutter to and fro about him.

pexels-photo-68421Everything was coming alive in the meadow. Butterflies nested in clumps of 5 and 6, pretending as to be flowers soaking in the first rays. Some sweetly fluttered magically about, their wings buzzing mid-air. Bees were humming, their work song commencing with the dawn.

Sleepy-eyed squirrels were just arousing, their snouts salivating over a nutty morsel. They greedily rubbed their faces with tiny hands, greeting the day with squeals of delight.

Birds sang their morning song, in chorus, as they flew in twos around the treetops. They tweeted and whistled. They sang to and fro like chimes of different tones.

By now the sun had kissed the tops of the hills sounding the valley and light was abundantly streaming in, seeping through the forest and bathing life in it light.

With its arrival the mushrooms, some hanging mi-air off of tree branches began to uncoil and regain their shape. It was as if the world hid and changed in the night only to reaffirm its reality with the coming of the light as if light was some magical envoy.

Vandara was still at the tree line, gazing down upon all the life in bloom before her. She sighed in pleasure breathed in the magical beauty. And then it happened.

The Lion turned his gaze, as if knowing she was there and looked directly at her. He stared into her eyes as the breath left her lips. She froze, fear creeping in for the first time, but it was not so much a dread as it was a great awe, an expectation of what was about to unfold.

The Great Lion stood, but did not leave his place. He awaited her approach. She took courage and fell forward into step. It was as if a force outside herself was pulling her toward him. He awaited, tame and calm, still gazing at her as she came to him.

She was close enough, now that she cold see his eyes were a clear liquid blue. She came to a halt feet in front of him and awed at his beauty, the muscle in his limbs- the inhuman strength in his body.

He was strength, he was courage. He was the epitome of beauty, yet wild and untamed. She gazed still into his eyes and reached a gentle hand toward him. He bent his head slowly and she brushed her fingers through his fur. She took in a deep breath, realizing there may have never before been one her touch the Great White Cat.

His eyes were deep, silent gems aglow in the day’s light. He gazed at her intently, bearing a hole into her soul. He saw her, she knew. He saw every part of her, every cranny of her soul and relished it. He relished in who she was. Loved her purely for herself.

pexels-photo-29534He took a step back and she drew back her hand. He bowed his head, until his nose almost touched the ground. She froze. Panic began to set in. She did not understand what he was doing, but she knew it was a blessing of sorts. He was choosing her.

Though, she had been Chosen since the day of her birth without knowing it, it was another matter entirely for the Great Lion, the purest, most powerful creature in all the known lands, to bless her and make her Choosing public before all the creatures.

And nothing would ever again be the same. She would now and forevermore be known as Vandara, the Valor of Valerian, the Chosen.

 

Valor of the Chosen

Sommer & Wynter

She was born in the longest summer known in history. The time of her birth and youth was of the greatest peace, the most plenty and she embodied all that a season of summer meant. Warmth, brightness, cheer. She was carefree and hopeful; hopeful of all the things to come. Strong and brave, she found adventure within every corner. Small worlds came to her under every rock, every cranny, calling her to themselves. Under mid-night moons she ran, she danced. Warm running-waters beneath her cold feet, cool moist earth in her hands. She was the dark princess, loved by all; dark skinned, dark eyed, dark from the hair on her head to the tips of her toes. She was hope, she was life. Thus they called her Sommer.

nature-sky-sunset-sunHe was Wynter, son of the cold. Pale skinned, white haired, red faced from frigid winds. He was a warrior, a young man, but old as one could be. He lived as a roamer, casting his lot to the north wind and following it’s whims. He took to the icy Tundra wilds, finding shelter as he could. He killed, he ransacked, he stole away the livelihoods of men. His mighty, meaty hand yielded sharp iron and commanded men. With it, he beat his white mare into submission. That same hand that caressed his dying mother’s cheek, held the orphan baby’s fingers in his own, also bathed in blood and relished it. He was death, the epitome of destruction.

Then one day summer moved into winter and their once parallel paths crossed. He spied her in the cool night prancing, the silver moonbeam glowing off her skin. He watched as she danced, found himself smiling as she laughed with the innocent air of a child, as if no terrible thing could touch her or come near. He gazed on as she twirled in the cool mists of autumn and he knew he could not live another day of this death, this empty life that was his own. Drawn by the power of her alien joy, he dismounted, and for the first time in his life, came out of the tree line.

She stopped. She did not cry out. She did not fall back, but froze eyes transfixed on the strange dark figure before her. He said nothing approaching slowly, but no words were necessary. She could feel his pain, his rage, all those things he carried inside him. She smiled, the moon glittering gently in her eyes filling with tears. She approached and took his hand. When their skin met, it was electric. She laughed a sweet full-hearted laugh, interweaving her fingers through his and led him into her world. A world of good, of radiant joy, where dark clouds meant a promise of fleeting terrors.

They said it was a tragedy, that theirs was a terrible love, two opposite lives merged, two kingdoms destroyed, but who’s to say what love is a good or the right kind? For them, Sommer and Wynter, they learned to live in opposite worlds and transformed. They  became milder forces to contend with and meshed into Autumn and Spring. Ultimately, they lived in awe of the world, in strongholds of beauty and ferocity until they passed into legends that live eternally in every season.pexels-photo-24036